Sunday began the second week of advent and all the traditional trappings are present for the season. Christmas carols fill the air, decorations are full of red and green, glitter, lights, and so much more. No one can escape the trappings of the season.
Yet, in all the hubbub of the holiday season, the purpose of the season becomes buried. That triggered a question: What can Advent teach us?
Four weeks on the Christian calendar are to prepare one for the birth of Jesus Christ—as known as the Messiah, the Savior, Emmanuel, Son of God. The story is old and has been told and retold for over 2,000 years—according to our calendar.
So, what can Advent 2018 teach us?
I have thought about that this week and realized that maybe, just maybe we work so hard to celebrate Christmas, we ignore the significance of the four weeks before Christmas Day.
This pushed me to think about the typical labels used within The Church for each of the weeks: hope, peace, joy, and love. One theme for each week, and last week I talked a little about hope; therefore, this week—if I follow expectations—I should talk about peace.
But, maybe I need to review this and think about the whole four weeks a little broader. Why hope, peace, joy and love? What makes these four abstract nouns so essential to the entire story? What do these four themes teach us?
Looking at the common lectionary, the themes are woven through readings from the Old and New Testament. Remember that reading the Bible is reading literature that deals with all the reality of human existence—the strengths and the weaknesses, birth and death, health and illness.
So what can Advent 2018 teach us?
The answer lies in the big picture—Christ in the center of our lives makes life manageable. Even more:
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NLT):
This scripture has carried me through many rough days. As I look at the lectionary readings, I am reminded how the scriptures simply repeat themes.
Last week I referenced “hope” as the theme, but I am seeing how hope is a foundational piece to Christian faith. Of course hope would be the first theme of Advent because without hope one becomes distraught, disillusioned, lost.
Without hope, one becomes frozen into a life pattern that is without purpose or focus. If life is identified as a color, life without hope is grey. And as tradition has it, that is not an Advent color. (I know, silver and white are popular right now, but dull grey just does not light up one’s eyes for decorations in my opinion.)
So what can Advent 2018 teach us?
Hope becomes a driving force in our lives. We need hope to keep us living life to its fullest. Living with hope places us in the position to do or act. We are turned loose to live.
Now think about peace. Some churches celebrate peace as the theme for the second week of Advent, but again it takes understanding what peace really is.
Consider the definition, according to the Oxford On-line dictionary:
PEACE (mass noun)
1. Freedom from disturbance; tranquility.
1.1 Mental or emotional calm.
2 A state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended.
2.1in singular A treaty agreeing peace between
2.2 The state of being free from civil disorder.
2.3 The state of being free from dissension.
With such emphasis on global news in our current culture, an outside observer might think the second definition is the most common use of the word; but Advent focuses on the first definition as a foundation for Christian living.
Consider this: with hopewe are living with the expectations that trusting God will give us the strength to manage all the highs and lows our lives encounter. Having that trust is the level of hope that leads us to peace.
Peacein the Christian context is not a political arrangement; it is tranquility—personal tranquility. The lectionary’s gospel reading for this week is about John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus:
4 Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!
5 The valleys will be filled,
and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
and the rough places made smooth.
6 And then all people will see
the salvation sent from God.’”
–Luke 3:4-6 referencing Isaiah 40:3-5
The verses do not speak specifically to peace,but reading the Life Application Study Bible’s study notes adds a new perspective:
To “prepare the way” means clearing aside the baggage of the past and the doubts of the present in order to let the King come into your life. He’ll take it from there.
Consider the tranquility that one will experience if Advent truly “prepares the way” for a life that centers on God, the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. That tranquility is in deed PEACE.
And yes, the color blue is tranquil, it is the clear blue skies of all four seasons. It is the blue of the Eastern Bluebird another symbol of happiness.
What does Advent teach us?
- Advent teaches us the very foundation of a faith-filled life with God.
- Advent teaches us hope.
- Advent teaches us peace.
Christians take four weeks to “prepare the way” for the celebration of God’s arrival as the baby Jesus Christ. One learns hope and one finds peace as Advent continues.
Dear Giving God,
We turn to scripture to read the story once again.
We practice all the traditions of Advent
hoping to experience Christ with us.
We mark off the weeks of Advent
learning a new peace because you are with us.
We anticipate learning even more
from the ancient words shared in scripture
and from those who teach us understanding.
Through the week we thank you
for being present with us
as we anticipate the joy of Christmas. –Amen
Common Lectionary readings for week of Dec. 9, 2018
- Malachi 3:1-4
- Luke 1:68-79